Call edition 2012
A new edition of the Prize of the Belgian Development Cooperation has been launched. This call is open until March 31st, 2011. You can read in the regulations whether you comply with the criteria for participation.
Anneleen Vandeplas’s thesis was produced as part of a project carried out by the CIMMYT, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Texcoco, Mexico. The centre’s objective is a stable harvest for small farmers in the tropics. Using classic methods of improvement it develops varieties of maize and wheat with good agricultural properties, a high yield, and resistance to diseases and plagues. Maize yields in the area around Texcoco in Mexico are very low, varying from 200 kg to 1,500 kg per hectare for rain-fed maize and from 3,000 kg to 4,000 kg for irrigated maize. In comparison, the average maize yield in Belgium is 8,000 kg to 9,000 kg per hectare. If small farmers have access to the quality sowing-seed produced by the CIMMYT, their harvest, and therefore their standard of living, could increase considerably.
In the Highlands of Mexico and elsewhere in Central America the Maize Rayado Fino virus can cause maize harvest losses of up to 100 %. Together with two mollicutes (a species of bacteria without cell-wall) the virus forms a disease complex called the maize dwarf-growth complex. The three pathogens are carried from diseased to healthy plants by a small insect, the maize cicada Dalbulus maidis. The CIMMYT has already found usable sources of resistance to the two mollicutes, but not for the virus as yet. Therefore, in this study, field tests and hothouse tests were begun with 60 maize genotypes that were infected with the Maize Rayado Fino virus in order to track down possible sources of resistance. In both field and hothouse tests one maize genotype was found, CML 459, with a good resistance to the virus. This genotype could be a valuable source of resistance for use in improvement programmes.
In order to determine what the relevance of the research project was for the small farmers in the Mexican highlands Ms Vandeplas interviewed 9 local farmers in the context of her thesis. From these interviews it appeared that the farmers had a general lack of understanding of the various diseases and blights that could affect their maize. They attributed the symptoms of the maize dwarf-growth complex to drought or air pollution. Anneleen Vandeplas comes to the conclusion that existing national and local improvement and information programmes do not work efficiently and that more human and financial capital must be invested in educating small farmers. Only when they can identify the needs of their crops will they be able to take the right decisions in the fight against disease and appreciate the importance of improved varieties.
report by Prof. Dr M. Höfte, Department of Crop Protection, Universiteit Gent, Belgium